Job of the Day: Pharmacist

walgreens-find-your-pharmacist-large-6Here’s a career path you might not have considered, buried within this largely depressing piece about how much part-time work sucks, via Bloomberg:

“Does a highly-paid, relatively short-hour, moderately high education, majority-female occupation sound too good to be true? It is true and the field is pharmacy,” write Harvard labor economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz in a paper calling pharmacist “the most egalitarian of all professions.” As big retail chains expanded, replacing independent pharmacist-owned shops, they offered part-time work at relatively high wages. As a result, women flooded into the field. “Because of the extensive work flexibility and low pecuniary penalty to short hours, female pharmacists with currently active licenses take little time off during their careers even when they have children,” the economists write.

But if demanding unpredictable hours from cashiers and clerks is good for business efficiency, why isn’t the same true for pharmacists, who work short hours in similar retail environment? The most likely explanation is that pharmacists, unlike cashiers and clerks, can legally trade money for more predictable hours. Their median wage is $58 an hour, which leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Not bad, right? USNews concurs, scoring the job of a Pharmacist 8.1 out of a possible 10 and ranking it #5 on their list of Top 100 Jobs, period. And yet in my entire life, though I know plenty of folks whose grandparents worked at drug stores, probably making egg creams, I’m not sure I’ve encountered anyone who’s said, “I want to be a pharmacist.” Not sexy enough? Somehow off the radar? Why are we not all behind the counter, dispensing drugs with a smile?

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28 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan (#70)

My grandfather was totally a pharmacist!

Samantha (#6,738)

This post made me realize that I know a bunch of people who are pharmacists/are studying pharmacy…My great grandfather and my great aunt were pharmacists, and I have a cousin and three friends who are studying it.
And that money, geez…maybe it’s not to late to switch my major.

drydenlane (#5,919)

I know several people who are pharmacists or in school for it right now. Does seem like a pretty good gig as far as pay and job stability/availability, but I do think many young pharmacists get stuck working overnights at 24 hour pharmacies. One of my friends posts CRAZY updates about things she experiences during her overnight shifts.

DickensianCat (#971)

@drydenlane YES. My pharmacist friend works at a CVS and gets paid well, but she’s completely vulnerable to both the corporate bullshit the rest of the store employees have to endure (cleaning and arranging even OTC sections to prepare for store visits from watchdogs)and the crazy, crazy ass customers and all their abuse. Also the long shifts. Would not trade places with her!

Heather F G (#6,074)

The school where my husband got his PhD had a REALLY popular Pharmacy (correct terminology?) program. He taught music electives and they were always full of people who kind of used “But I’m in pharmacy!” as an excuse for not caring or doing their homework. It was a REALLY difficult program, though, so I’ll give them that.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@Heather F G Kentucky?

Heather F G (#6,074)

@LookUponMyWorks A SUNY school, actually.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Totally agree that they can make good money, and provide a very valuable service…but the pharmacy industry is seriously changing, and in 10 years will likely look much different, with more medication being dispensed via insurance company home-delivery pharmacies than store-based or independent pharmacies. This might mean that pharmacists work in large warehouses checking off prescriptions. I’m sure insurance companies will figure out a way to pound down their wages.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

@LookUponMyWorks You would be interested in this mail order pharmacy: http://www.ideo.com/work/disrupting-the-drugstore

And insurances are steering people towards specialty pharmacies because it helps them with their medicare/medicaid adherence policies and gives greater care to the individual. I think there is a LOT of steerage going on.

@LookUponMyWorks Do you work in the pharmacy industry? I have been curious for some time now why they keep opening so many new CVS and Walgreens everywhere (usually across the street from each other)! You can get cheaper generics, and everything else pharmacies sell, at big boxes like walmart, target etc, and like you said, so many insurance companies are pushing mail order. It doesn’t make any sense to me! I feel like we’ll just have a million empty drugstore buildings in 10 years, and that just annoys the heck out of me.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@Punk-assBookJockey I used to work in the pharmacy industry. One of the best things about pharmacists is that they’re often the most accessible health care provider for the Average Jo. There’s an important community health element that is being dimmed by the mail-order pharmacies.

Re: the Walgreens and CVS boom etc: I think these stores often serve as groceries, home supplies, toiletries, etc stores in addition to their pharmacy function which is likely why they’re popping up all over. I always buy my laundry detergent at the drug store near my office because they put that stuff on sale every two weeks.

@LookUponMyWorks I see! Yes, I agree. I am not a frequent user of prescription medication now, but I have been before and have always appreciated the pharmacist who took the time to ask if I had any questions about my medication. I never did the mail order prescriptions.
Interesting point! I’ve never price compared at the drugstores before so I wasn’t aware they were competitive for those things. It just seems like having competing businesses on multiple corners in a not large town is sort over-saturating the market, but time will tell I guess!

E$ (#1,636)

I think the amount of schooling needed to be a pharmacist is a barrier. For someone like me with a liberal-arts education, I would probably have to take a year or two of pre-pharmacy credits of things I didn’t take in college (bio, chem, maybe some advanced math) in order to even get into pharmacy school. And then how would I pay for it?

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@E$ Some states do not require you to have an undergrad degree to enter pharmacy school (!!!).

@E$ Yeah, I was going to say – my cousin and her BS in chemistry had to go back and take classes before she went to pharmacy school because her science classes had been that long ago! I’d hardly call 4 years undergrad (in a science) plus 4 years pharmacy school moderately-high education, but then again, I’ve always lived in highly regulated states, so my expectations are probably off.

potatopotato (#5,255)

@LookUponMyWorks: True! But then it’s still a 6 year program.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

I worked previously with a ton of pharmacists (they were in the call center and I drove their workflow through data) and I have been told that the floor and ceiling for retail pharmacists salaries are very close together.

For me, it’s not something I would consider. Other fields within pharmacy are much better but sometimes much low paying compared to retail (managed care in particular) and some people are not cut out to work at big pharma.

@rhinoceranita Yeah, I used to work with a lot of pharmacists as well, and I never met a happy retail pharmacist. Most of the pharmacists I knew who were pleased with their work were in consulting. I think the work level there could also be pretty brutal, but the hours were more flexible and there tended to at least be the opportunity to sit down or go to the bathroom occasionally. Also, less chance of getting held up at gunpoint(!).

Aconite (#6,401)

Being a pharmacist was my childhood dream. Just the SMELL of the pharmacy, damn. I still love hanging around in them and will never, NEVER have prescriptions delivered even if everything changes and suddenly there’s only one pharmacy in London and I have to go for 2 hours on the train to pick up my medicine.

beastlyburden (#6,122)

I know some pharmacists! I’ve also vaguely considered when I begin to panic about my stupid arts administration career.

I’ve read, though, that the market might get oversaturated soon. The number of new pharmacy schools has increased by 50% in the last 10 years, and existing schools have also expanded their programs, so there are about twice as many pharmacy grads as there were a decade ago. And a LOT of those grads go into residency instead of straight to work because they can’t necessarily find assignments they want.

@fo (#839)

“I’m not sure I’ve encountered anyone who’s said, “I want to be a pharmacist.””

My high school class of ~350 has like 5 pharmacists. I work with someone (totally non-medical field) who has two kids who are both pharmacists. I’ve met several other pharmacists/pharmacy students over the years in various contexts. It’s been a *very* practical career choice for a couple of decades.

Interim Conclusion: You’ve always run with a starry-eyed crowd, Ester.

Add’l Question: Do you know anyone (within your greater friend circle) who at least applied to Vet School? Not thought “I’d like to be a vet when I grow up”, but actually applied and/or went to a grad degree program?

@@fo Ha! Yes, that’s possible. I do know at least one vet-in-training, and plenty of librarians, nurses, NPs, massage therapists, MSWs, baristas, and so on. I’ve met dentists and teachers. Just no pharmacists. From now on I’ll be on the lookout though.

Allison (#4,509)

@@fo I have a friend who is finishing her vet residency? or something? She went to vet school in the caribbean.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

@@fo Yes! One of my friends is doing vet school but for more exotic animals. She wants to work at a zoo. Her undergrad degree is…human bio. LOL, mid-university career decision

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@@fo Yes, I have a friend who went to vet school and is now a practicing small animals vet.

guenna77 (#856)

my childhood babysitter was a person who said ‘i want to be a pharmacist’. she went to college specifically for that, to a school with a good med and pharmacy program. at the time i had visions of being a doctor (does every kid go through that?), but i had never really given any thought to adjacent medical careers. that was the first time i really understood that pharmacy was a specialty in its own right.

potatopotato (#5,255)

My dad’s a pharmacist. He owns the last-standing indie pharmacy for miles and miles and miles. I’m not scientifically inclined, but damn I wish I was. Sometimes I wonder if I should go back to school and try anyway, because my level of comfort in life is 100% thanks to my dad’s career and careful savings.

Smallison (#155)

@potatopotato I could’ve written this same comment, word for word! My dad always jokes that if he ever lost his job, he could get a new one on the way home. I can’t even dream of that kind of job security.

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